Spirits & Liqueurs Rum

What Makes Funky Rum So Funky?

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Hogo—it sounds like a term you’d find in Urban Dictionary. But rather, it’s a word used to describe one of the pungent, earthy aromas in so-called funky rum.

But what exactly is funky rum? To simplify things, distillers producing funky rum are trying to increase the liquid’s ester count and organic compounds that give distilled spirits flavor. The more esters, the more powerful the funk character.

There are a couple of ways to produce hogo rum. One is with open fermentation tanks, which allow air and bacteria to mingle with the distillate. Another method is to increase the fermentation time so that it lasts anywhere from several days to weeks to allow certain flavor and aroma compounds to develop.

And lastly, hogo rum is generally made in pot stills. Unlike modern column stills, pot stills allow impurities to hang around and mingle. In the pot-still method, “muck” or “dunder”—that is, what’s left in the pot still after fermentation—may be added back to bump up the ester count. This is similar to how sour mash is added back to bourbon in the distillation process or how a sourdough bread starter is reused to create new loaves.

One of the desired aromas particular to funky rum is that aforementioned hogo, a Creole slang word for “haut gout” (high taste). Haut gout refers to the smell that wild game meats gave off as they were hung to age.

Funky rum might also have distinctive herbaceous and vegetal notes and yeasty aromas. The latter is certainly true for rhum agricole (a style native to the French Caribbean) and cachaça (a spirit from Brazil made with fermented sugar cane juice), which can fall into this category.

Unsure if you’re drinking a hogo rum or not? Give it a sniff. Your nose will know.